There are many reasons why one should go back to history. It could be an effort, if analyzed neutrally, to understand how different forces play out and shape the outcome of a certain period of time, or to pick an event from here and there to prove a subjective point related to the one’s own argument about that period or the present. I believe that what counts to people on this site is reading previous chapters of history to figure out where we are going particularly in times of uncertainty like those now in the Middle East.
As many already know, what is important in looking at the issues you and I have been debating with the participation of many friends here is the context in which any event took place. For many of the friends here, this is not done merely as an intellectual exercise, or as propaganda. If we understand, from studying previous periods of history, how religious fundamentalism spreads in a place, for example, we will be able to know if it is possible to defeat it and how.
I have to confess that I did not appreciate much “the logic” of your previous contributions simply because you omitted completely the context of the scattered and handpicked events you mentioned. Let us just take one example which you touched in your last post.
Ben-Gurion once said it is normal that Palestinians hate the Israelis, and then added “We came from far away, kicked them out of their homes and took their land. They do not understand why we did that”. In that sense, he was actually presenting the context of many events you mentioned.
The main point here Prof Baram is to try to see history from the perspectives of all different players in any given moment in order to understand that moment. If we are not propagandists, and I wish we are not, we will be able then to agree or at least have a meaningful discussion. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time.
Let us just examine the story of Amin al-Husseini that you raised many times in your post. If this story is not put in its proper context, you will be able to put al- Husseini arbitrarily in any point you select in the complex map of history. In 1937, Haj Amin fled Palestine to Lebanon. Why? Because the British issued an order to arrest him. Why? Because he led a revolt against both the Brits and Jews colonizing his country.
Was al-Husseini anti-Semitic? He was very much so. But his anti-Semitism was his twisted way to confront the increasing flow of Jewish immigrants to Palestine and it was based on the emerging interpretation, at that time, of Islam. He stupidly knocked on the doors of the most brutal colonial power-Nazi Germany, to help him confront other colonial powers-Zionists and the British.
The partition of Palestine did not look right to most of the Arabs at that time. It was a selloff of part of an Arab country to blond, blue eyed immigrants who claim that their God promised them the land four thousand years ago, and that they were there some thousands of years ago. If you were a simple Palestinian peasant facing someone who claims that your land was actually his, according to a book that is written in a strange language which he carries under his arm, what would you have done? True that some Jews immigrated early on and some were living there long time before the second world war, but if you get back to the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine during this period you will understand why the Muslim Palestinians felt the way I described. In fact, the Jewish colonization (“return” in your language) of Palestine started in an increasing pace after the Belfour declaration in 1917 which stated that “His majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.
Why do I say that? It is simply an attempt to understand why al-Husseini walked towards an alien ideology far away from where he lived. This is also valid in an attempt to understand why some in the Arab world sympathized with Nazi Germany. Do not forget that the late President Sadat and his mentor Gen Aziz Al-masry tried to contact Rommel while he was advancing towards Egypt from Libya. At that time the anti-Semitic nature of the Nazis did not preoccupy the two Egyptian officers. They were simply trying to seek the assistance of the Nazis against the British occupation of Egypt. Al-masry was arrested by the Brits on his way to Libya. Sadat escaped.
But let me mention one thing that you do not seem to understand because of your insistence on neglecting any meaningful context of the historical course of that epoch. Al-Husseini came to Egypt, I believe in 1954 and met was Nasser several times. That was during the peak of the dispute between Al-Hudaiby, the Muslim Brotherhood Murshid (Guide) of the the time, and Nasser who was then the Prime minister of Egypt. Husseini tried to mediate between the two men and failed. If taken out of context, that can be said to “prove” that Husseini was trying to spread some of his Nazi poison into Nasser’s head. But he (Husseini) ended up siding with Al-Hudaiby. Nasser later kicked him out of Egypt and ordered that he never put his foot in the country again. Without understanding the context of their enmity one will be puzzled about why al-Husseini did not support Nasser even as the Egyptian leader was fighting Israel.
About Eisenhower now. You say” As a sign of gratitude to Eisenhower Nasser immediately began to undermine the pro-American regimes of King Hussein in Jordan, the Saudis and more-or-less democratic Lebanon.” You were referring to Eisenhower’s ultimatum to the Israelis, British and French governments to withdraw their forces from Egypt in 1956 and Nasser’s mean lack of gratitude. But this again reflects your inability to understand history in a way that is divorced from your emotions and perspective. The way you put it sounds almost as if you are saying that Nasser either was crazy or he was a vicious character or he was not polite enough or well raised enough to express his gratitude to the American president by going to Moscow. This is not how you should understand history.
What you should examine is the specific set of circumstances that led to such a shift. Just because of the limited space here I suggest that you read about John Fosters Dulles’s refusal of a request sent by the Egyptian junta in 1954 to arm the Egyptian military forces which the Brits left in a miserable conditions and his rejection of an Egyptian request to the World Bank for help in building the Aswan dam.
The Soviets were swift to accept both requests. However, Nasser was reluctant in the beginning to allow them into Egypt. The reason why he was reluctant in the beginning is still debated until today but within a larger question. This question is about the degree the Americans helped the Free Officers to take power in Egypt and rid the country of the British occupation.
It was really amazing to discover a report published in one of the main Egyptian dailies of the time-“Akhbar Al-yom” –“the pro American newspaper in Egypt at the time- dated Sep 6th 1952 written by their correspondent in New York detailing the content of an American document related to the then debated agriculture reform. The source of the document was the US State Department. The document described in details how the agriculture reform should be done and contradicted the demand of the MBs to make the maximum ownership of land to 500 acres and approved the limit of 200 acres. Not only that, but the alleged document contested the idea that distributing the land among the poorest levels of peasants will negatively impact the productivity of the land. It said that large properties in Egypt do not use modern agriculture machinery anyway, and manual labor may fit the production of Egyptian cotton more than machines. The US embassy did not deny the authenticity of the document. Nasser did exactly what the document recommended
If we get back to the main thrust of your argument we will find that you explain correctly why the Zionists in 1948 Palestine accepted arms from Stalin. But this same argument applies to al-Husseini contacts with the Nazis. That is not a sufficient argument to make Ben-Gurion a Stalinist, neither it is a sufficient argument to make al-Husseini a Nazi. When you get back to what the Mufti wrote you will find two things. He was anti-Semitic and he was aspiring for an independent Arab Palestine.
But the Zionists did not go to Palestine because al-Husseini was a Nazi. Neither they established the state of Israel because of that. The stunning assertion you make in point number 7 that “When a leader makes a grand move like joining Hitler and remains the leader after that, this reflects on his supporters: the Palestinian Arab national movement”. Do you want to tell us that the Palestinian resistance to the theft of their land and the loss of their homes and villages is inspired by Nazism? I will not even honor such an assertion with a response.
The war of 1956 was crucial in the sense that the common Egyptian started identifying Israel as a threat to his own country. Egypt nationalized the British-French company of the Suez Canal. What did this have to do with Israel? Yet, Israel with England and France declared war on Egypt and captured all of Sinai. Eisenhower became very popular in Egypt at that time because of his ultimatum to the three powers. Brits in Egypt used to deny they are, and claim they are Americans. Later, Americans used to deny they are and claim they are Canadians. Why were Americans popular then and were not later?
Finally Prof Baram, listen to what Sec Gates said in Tel Aviv few days ago about the need for a bold step now and do yourself, the US, and the democratic forces in the Arab World a favor. Just leave the west Bank and accept the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state. This land-the West Bank- is indeed occupied by virtue of UN resolutions and international law, leave it. Become a force for construction and development. Provide technology and knowhow and modern agriculture methods instead of settlers and humiliation based on military strength.
But if you say that according to your book the land is Jewish, do not deny to others the right to say that according to theirs it is Muslim.